On almost the same day last month, two similar products came out that seem inevitable in retrospect. They’re point-and-shoot cameras with the Android operating system built right in, so all (well, most) of the apps that Android phones can run, these things can run.
There’s photo sharing, of course. But there’s also social networking, games, organizers, office document editors, all kinds of stuff. Smartphones all have cameras built into them, so putting Android on an actual camera camera with a larger zoom lens and capable image sensor just makes sense.
The cameras have a lot in common, but also enough differences to make it a legitimate choice between the two. Let’s take a look.
Nikon COOLPIX S800c
10x optical zoom
At a suggested retail price of $349, the S800c is a pretty good camera in its own right with those specs. The touchscreen is 3.5 inches, the same as an iPhone’s, but this thing is much thicker than an iPhone. It runs Android version 2.3.3, which isn’t the newest, but is still the most common version on phones. It stores everything on 1.7GB of internal memory and whatever SD/SDHC card you put in.
It also has a built-in GPS, so you can tag your photos with the exact location where they were taken. And since still photos are so passé, you can record 1080p HD video as well. To communicate with the outside world, the camera has Wi-Fi, so you can zap your pictures to Facebook or Instagram or whatever the kids are using these days.
As far as regular camera features go, the lens aperture is f/3.2-5.8, which is, well, good, but nothing spectacular. There’s even a mini HDMI port for showing your pictures or video on a large TV — though you can only choose resolutions up to 1080i, not the full 1080p you can record in. Weird.
Samsung Galaxy Camera
21x optical zoom
Right away, with that powerful zoom lens, you can infer one main thing about the Samsung camera compared to the Nikon: it’s bigger. And boy is it. With a 4.8-inch touchscreen on the back, it’s as large as many Android smartphones, but again, much thicker.
Samsung is a bit stingier on exact specifications, but a little research online revealed an f2.8-5.9 lens, which is a little better than Nikon’s, especially with the longer zoom range. It also shoots 1080p video (according to DPReview.com), as well as slow motion video at 420p and 120 frames per second, or one-quarter normal speed. Storage is also an improvement over Nikon: 8GB internal and a microSDHC slot.
If all these features make it sound like Samsung’s trying to make up for a photographic reputation somewhat less auspicious than Nikon’s, keep reading. The camera runs Android 4.1, also known by its code name Jellybean — the latest available. Plus, in addition to Wi-Fi, the thing has a micro SIM card slot so you can add it as a data-only device to your cellular contract. Of course, you’ll pay for all this; suggested retail price is around $600.
Is there room in the market for these cameras with better lenses than phones, but no phone functionality, but lots of other app functionality? Only sales figures will tell.
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